The story appears on

Page A2

February 28, 2014

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Metro » Society

Cab drivers angry over rush hour app ban

NEW rules banning the use of taxi booking apps during rush hour periods have sparked a heated debate among drivers and passengers.

“It’s simply unreasonable,” Zhang Jian, a driver for the Shanghai Haibo Taxi Co, told Shanghai Daily.

“Who says I have to pick up a fare just because my light says that I’m available? Why can’t I just drive around. What if I’m on my way home?” he said.

From tomorrow, drivers are prohibited from taking bookings made via the apps between the hours of 7:30am and 9:30am, and 4:30pm and 6:30pm.

A notice issued on Wednesday by the city’s transportation management department and traffic law enforcement team said any driver that has an “available” light showing but refuses to stop for a passenger at a legitimate hailing spot during the rush hour will be seen as rejecting a fare.

Anyone found guilty of such an offense will face a 200 yuan (US$32.64) fine, a 15-day suspension, and could risk having their license revoked, it said.

“If I’m given any kind of punishment for doing that, I will fight it,” Zhang said.

The operators of the Kuaidi Taxi and Didi Taxi apps pay drivers a 10 yuan subsidy for each of the first 10 orders they take per day. That means they can make up to 200 yuan a day in bonuses.

“The subsidies add about 1,500 yuan to my monthly income,” Zhang said. “I still pick up fares in the street, but why shouldn’t I be allowed to get my 20 fares from the apps first?”

Another driver, surnamed Chen, who works for Shanghai Dazhong Taxi Co, said he thinks the new regulations will be very hard to police.

“If a driver is worried about being fined for not picking up a fare when his “available” light is one, he’ll probably just switch it off, or flip it to “not in service,” he said.

Chen said he usually has four booking apps running all the time, on four phones he has attached to his dashboard. Of the 40 fares he takes on an average day, 30 of them come from the apps, he said.

“With the new rules, I’ll probably cut down to two apps. But I don’t see how you can stop drivers checking their phones. After all, they’re just trying to make a living.”

The traffic management enforcement team said it will rely on complaints and tip-offs from passengers and the public to identify those drivers who flout the new rules.

Both Kuaidi and Didi have said they will cooperate with the city’s taxi companies in a bid to comply with the new rules. But questions remain how far that cooperation will go given the fact that the software operators are in the business of making money.

“Achieving worthwhile cooperation between the app owners and taxi companies will be difficult,” said Chen Bizhuang, deputy director of the Shanghai City Transportation Planning Institute.

The two sides have very different priorities, he said.

“Taxis are a public service and cab companies receive subsidies from the government. The applications, on the other hand, are backed by large enterprises that are competing for the online payment market,” Chen said.

“Their goals are different, and supervision of all of that can’t be achieved by a single government department.”

Bonus payment

As if to prove Chen’s point, soon after the announcement of the rush hour ban on apps, Alipay — which backs Kuaidi Taxi — said it will continue to pay bonuses to both taxi drivers and passengers if the fare is settled through its payment platform, regardless of how the booking was made.

All drivers who register with Kuaidi are given a QR code, which links to their Alipay account and can be printed out and posted inside the cab, the company said.

During the payment process, using the Alipay app, a passenger simply has to scan the code into their phone and both he or she and the driver will get the relevant bonus, Alipay said.

Passengers are paid 13 yuan for each of their first two rides per day, while drivers can claim 10 yuan for each of their first five fares, it said. All bonus payments are credited to Alipay accounts within three to five working days.

The bonus for payments scheme is being promoted in Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou, Hefei and Wuhan, and will be extended to other cities later, Alipay said.

In an effort to boost cooperation between taxi firms and software companies, Shanghai Qiangsheng Taxi Co said it will complete the task of aligning the Didi and Kuaidi apps with its dispatching system by March 10, while the city’s three other major taxi companies will follow suit by the end of next month.

The coordination of the two systems will enable taxi top lights to automatically change from “available” to “dispatched” once a driver accepts a fare using any of the booking programs.

Several taxi users who spoke to Shanghai Daily expressed their support for the rush hour ban on booking apps, but doubted how effective the new rules will be.

“A lot of people, especially seniors, don’t use the apps, so the regulations do at least give everyone a fair chance of finding a cab,” said Wang Hui, a middle-school teacher. “But there seem to be a lot of holes in the regulations.”

Local woman Ruan Chengji said she agrees in principle with the rush hour ban, even though she generally uses the apps during those times.

“You aren’t guaranteed to get a taxi even if you use the apps,” she said. “And although this way does seem fairer for everyone, it won’t change the fact that during the busy periods, demand for taxis will always outstrip supply.”

Ruan also said she thinks the apps can pose a safety risk.

“I sometimes ask the driver to turn off the apps because the stream of messages is really irritating,” she said.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend